Things To Do In Brisbane | In The Area | Rydges Brisbane

Things to Do

There Are Many Things To Do In Brisbane & South Bank

South Bank is a bustling metropolis with an abundance of things to do and see from a stroll through the scenic South Bank Parklands, to a dip in the Streets Beach lagoon or a visit to the Collective Markets on Saturdays and Sundays.

Take in the city from a different perspective as you take a turn on the Wheel of Brisbane, pop by the Riverlife Adventure Centre and hire a bicycle, kayak, rollerblades, or take a segway tour of the city.

Our Brisbane accommodation is at the heart of Queensland’s arts and entertainment precinct; with the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Queensland Museum, Queensland Conservatorium of Music all located on the hotel’s doorstep.

Keen for a spot of shopping? The Brisbane CBD and Queen Street Mall, home to world class boutiques and department stores, are located a short walk away.

There are plenty of additional Brisbane attractions to explore. Ask our friendly Concierge for more information.

A Commonwealth Bank ATM is located across the street from the hotel on Grey Street.

The South Bank train station is also just a few minutes away and is an affordable way to travel to any number of tourist attractions around the city.

Things to do in Brisbane

Rydges South Bank is in the heart of the action for exploring and discovering things to do in Brisbane. Just across the road are the South Bank Parklands – 17 hectares of river frontage parklands that are home to Streets Beach and the Wheel of Brisbane.

There are cafes and restaurants, and the South Bank Village Markets. The Queensland Maritime Museum is at the Woolloongabba end of the Parklands and it has a World War II frigate, a 1925 steam tug and many other fascinating bits for those into nautical relics.

Heading left from Rydges takes you past the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and, across Grey Street, to the QueenslandPerforming Arts Centre (QPAC) which always has excellent theatre and music happening. If you cross Melbourne Street you will find the Queensland Museum, which has exhibits from whales to dinosaurs, snakes to snails and crabs to crocodiles, as well as special exhibitions. Queensland Sciencentre is also located at the Museum. This is a really fun place for kids – not a hint of classroom and there may be snot, slime and maggots – just the sort of things kids love.

The nearby Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) will reward art lovers with its Australian, Aboriginal and international collections. They have some excellent visiting exhibitions and an extensive permanent collection. It’s easy to spend a whole day taking in the wonderful art and there’s always something to suit all tastes.

Nearby, the State Library of Queensland is not just a place full of books. You can access the Internet, trace your family tree, view visiting collections or watch a classic film – most services are free.

Back to Melbourne Street and a walk across Victoria Bridge will take you to the Brisbane CBD. There are some lovely old buildings in the centre of Brisbane.

The Conrad Treasury Casino is a beautiful 19th century sandstone building which contrasts easily with the glitter and gambling within. Some think it appropriate that the place that was once the Treasury still collects a lot of money from the public.

St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Cathedral has one of the world’s finest collections of 19th-century stained glass. There are three tours on Sundays (following Mass) and weekdays at 10:30am. 

St John’s Cathedral in Ann Street is a living artwork with stone vaulted ceilings, spectacular stained glass windows and intricately carved wooden choir stalls.  Guides are in attendance daily to provide information and assistance.

Parliament House is a grand building, built in 1868 and inspired by the Louvre Museum in Paris. Parliament House backs on to the City Botanic Gardens, Queensland’s leading heritage park. It’s full of beautiful old trees and dates back to 1828.

The Queen Street Mall is the place to start for shopping. It’s a pedestrian mall full of space, shade, light, al fresco eateries, free entertainment and, of course, department stores and shops. Whether you’re after Versace originals, Aboriginal art, grunge music, specialist books or body piercing – it’s all within easy walking distance.

Brisbane Attractions

Brisbane is a young, relaxed city and it’s easy to get about. There are many fine galleries and museums, as well as first class shopping, theatres and nightlife. All along the banks of the Brisbane River are parks and recreational boardwalks, play and picnic areas, walking and bike trails, restaurants, cafés, markets, pontoons and fishing facilities. Fast ferries provide an efficient, inexpensive and fun way to explore the river and the city, and the gracious River Queen paddle-wheelers or Gondola Cruises take life a little more leisurely.

Rydges South Bank makes a great base to explore everything Brisbane has to offer. In the South Bank Precinct itself are many great attractions including the South Bank Parklands, the Wheel of Brisbane, fabulous dining options, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA),which is  the largest gallery of modern and contemporary art in Australia. Nearby are the Queensland Museum, Queensland Sciencentre and State Library of Queensland and, at the Woolloongabba end of South Bank there’s the Maritime Museum.

You can walk across Victoria Bridge to the CBD for excellent shopping in the Queen Street Mall as well as some lovely buildings and gardens. The Conrad Treasury Casino is a beautiful 19th century sandstone building and other buildings in the city worth checking out include St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, St John’s Cathedral and St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Ann Street.  Nearby is Anzac Square, the Anzac Memorial and the Shrine of Remembrance.

The Queensland Parliament House is a grand structure, inspired by the Louvre in Paris and it backs on to the BrisbaneCity Botanic Gardens, a heritage park with trees dating back to 1828. You’ll also find the outdoor entertainment venue, Riverstage, here.

For those who want to get some more in-depth (and often quirky facts) about Brisbane city there are free guided walks run by knowledgeable and friendly volunteers. Just drop in to the Brisbane Visitor Information and Booking Centre at 167 Queen Street Mall (the old Regent Theatre) or phone (07)3006 6290 to reserve a spot.

For dining options, you will find a variety of cuisines to suit all tastes and budgets in West End, at Eagle Street Pier in the city, in Milton, through South Bank, along Racecourse Road out Hamilton way and in Fortitude Valley.  From the Valley if you head up Brunswick Street to the Brisbane River you will come across New Farm Park and the Brisbane Powerhouse. And crossing the Brisbane River is one of the city’s most treasured landmarks, The Storey Bridge, which offers adventure climbs.

For spectacular views, a planetarium and exotic plants, visit the Mt Coot-tha Lookout and Botanic Gardens. While there, you could take the 1.5 kilometre Mt Coot-tha Aboriginal Art Trail to see traditional artwork in a natural setting.

Just down in Fig Tree Pocket (15 mins from  the CBD) is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for those wanting to get up close to and personal with koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian Devils, Lorikeets, birds of prey, snakes, platypus and wombats.

Suncorp Stadium

Suncorp Stadium is not just an iconic Brisbane sporting and events arena, it is widely regarded as one of the world’s best sporting venues for players and spectators alike. Occasionally this would not ring true for a visiting football teamplaying againstone of the local sides like The Brisbane Broncos in the NRL (or the Maroons in the State of Origin), the Brisbane Roar in the A-League or in rugby union, the Queensland Reds or a battle between, say, the Wallabies and the All Blacks. Not saying for a moment that the local crowds are at all parochial or one-eyed, but a vocal full-house at Suncorp really lifts the lid. Suncorp Stadium is the spiritual home of football in Queensland and it is through those vocal fans that it gained its accurate nickname, The Cauldron.

Suncorp Stadium is also a fabulous arena for concerts but these were limited to four shows per year up until 2016. The cap has now been increased to six concerts per year, a decision that is sure to please both fans and visiting artists. The major concern was the noise for local residents but 73% of residents voted in favour of more concerts. In 2015 the four concert cap was reached with One Direction, the Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, which meant that AC/DC had to find another venue and that would have been a band to really rock the house.

A bit of history. Prior to European settlement the area was pretty swampy with creeks and low-lying waterways. European settlers saw it as a handy place to have a school, a church, a cemetery and a gaol. Up until 1875, this was the principal burial ground for Brisbane. That year it was closed because of concerns about health issues. Over the coming years the graves and memorials were relocated to Toowong and other cemeteries. On the religious side, a lovely little gothic chapel was built for the Anglicans in 1876. It was destroyed by a severe storm in 1890 and, in the following year, the current Christ Church was built.

The area where Suncorp is now was basically a tip – a place where rubble was dumped as building in the city happened. People petitioned council for some recreational facilities and the area was soon fenced off for cricket and football. The area became the legendary Lang Park, a sporting venue that had tennis courts and an oval for athletics and football. It was named after the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, an influential pastor who established the initial cemetery in 1840. Lang Park became the headquarters of the Queensland Rugby League and that baton has been passed to Suncorp.

The stadium capacity is 52,500 and there are 32 public bars and 24 food and beverage outlets. The venue is super disability-friendly with 228 wheelchair positions (with 228 escort seats). Suncorp Stadium is in Milton and it is easy to get to from Rydges South Bank. Here is a link to the official Suncorp Stadium website.

Wheel of Brisbane

The Wheel of Brisbane is a terrific attraction. You get a sense adventure, a bit of adrenaline and simply THE best views of the Brisbane sights by day and the city lights by night. You get 360-degree panoramic views of South Bank and sensational city views across the lovely Brisbane River.

The Wheel of Brisbane is located in Russell Street, in the South Bank Parklands in the heart of Brisbane’s cultural, lifestyle and entertainment district. The wheel is a tad shy of 60 metres tall and as erected in 2008 as part of the 20th anniversary of the World Expo 88 and the 150th anniversary of the State of Queensland celebrations. There are 42 air-conditioned capsules that can seat up to six adults and two children, giving a maximum capacity of 336. The rides last for approximately 12 minutes unless you opt for something like the Ride and Refresh Experience. There’s no need to book ahead for general admission but if you have a group it is a good idea to book and essential for the Ride and Refresh Experience.

Costs are excellent value with general admission for adults $15.75; students $13.50; concessions $12.60; children aged 4 to 12 $10.80; children under 3 – free; families $45 and a private gondola is $85. The Wheel of Brisbane operates Monday to Thursday from 11:00am to 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday from 10:00am to 11:00pm and on Sundays from 10:00am to 10:00pm.

The Ride and Refresh Experience is available Friday and Saturday nights only (5:00pm, 6:30pm and 8:00pm) and you can secure a time by phoning (07) 3844  3464. The package price is $60 for two people, $120 for four people and $180 for six people and you get a private air-conditioned gondola, a 25 minute ride with an appetizer share platter (selection of Queensland cold cuts with grilled and marinated vegetables served with crusty ciabatta). You can purchase drinks from the bar at an additional cost.

If you would like to upgrade to a VIP package there is a maximum of four people ($130 for two, $160 for four) and you get leather seats with a tinted window with romantic/general music (or your own personal selection – must drop off two hours prior to the booked time so they can have it ready).  You get the appetizer platter as above with a complimentary Sirromet wine or soft drink per person. Hmm… wonder how many have taken this option for a romantic and memorable marriage proposal?

If you are taking kiddies on the ride, they might bump into the Wheel of Brisbane’s mascot, an Eastern Water Dragon called Wanda. Check out the news section and Facebook page on the website link below to see when Wanda will be ‘on duty’. The real Eastern Water Dragons live along the South Bank waterways and are often seen around the fountain at the base of the wheel. The males have a bright red chest and belly, they can live up to 20 years in captivity and they can stay underwater for up to an hour.

Brisbane Powerhouse

The Brisbane Powerhouse once provided electricity to trams and inner city suburbs – these days it is a powerhouse of eclectic creativity. The Powerhouse yells, “try something different” and then entices by offering that something different to try. It is always producing and presenting a terrific mix of arts experiences from theatre to dance to film to photography to live music with new and exciting performances, artists and projects. And whether you are experiencing The Powerhouse from the inside or the outside there’s no escaping the stunning architecture and history that saw this industrial power station transform into the iconic arts centre it is today.

Brisbane Powerhouse is a building that transcends time. The industrial red brick facade, interior steel beams, gantry, generator and cement floors are remnants of Brisbane’s tram days when, in the early-mid 1900s, the city was serviced by a bustling tram system. When the tramway was decommissioned in the 60s, a new crowd moved in. Hordes of squatters and artists made their home among dangerous industrial structures and left a legacy of graffiti, or what is now officially known as heritage-listed aerosol art. When trams were replaced by buses, Brisbane City Council sold the building to the state. The Powerhouse was officially decommissioned in 1971. Now derelict, the building was a welcome shelter for the homeless, a site for target practice for the army, a location for film-makers and, as a precursor of its future, a stage for underground art happenings. Surviving two decades of neglect and a partially completed demolition project, the building was reacquired by Brisbane City Council in 1989. A significant example of industrial design of the art deco period, the power station was envisioned as a space for arts and culture. Since its re-opening in 2007, Brisbane Powerhouse now puts on 1,200 artistic performances a year. 

Brisbane Powerhouse sits along the Brisbane River, and the lovely 15 hectare New Farm Park is its backyard. Nowadays The Powerhouse is surrounded by family homes and low-rise apartment buildings, and its energy reflects the surrounding community. The building is open to everyone – international and local artists, idealists, rebels, revellers and families. The two on-site restaurants boast exquisite river views, treating diners to contemporary Italian food (Bar Alto – open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30am til late) and modern Australian fare (Watt Restaurant + Bar – open Monday to Friday from 9:00am til late). They also have artists-in-residence creating fantastic new works, a year-round program of festivals and events and tenants from a variety of industries. From a once-bustling power-station to a centre for contemporary culture, Brisbane Powerhouse is still a place where things are created to electrify. It is a major player in the Brisbane Festival and hosts the annual Brisbane Comedy Festival.

Brisbane Powerhouse is in New Farm at 119 Lamington Street and here is a link to the official Brisbane Powerhouse website for more info including What’s On for coming events, festivals, theatre and art exhibitions. The Powerhouse is fully wheelchair accessible with lifts and toilet facility as well as car parking.

South Bank Parklands

The South Bank Parklands are a wonderful part of Brisbane city. Located just across the Brisbane River from the CBD (an easy walk across Victoria Bridge) they offer a place to rewind and relax, to dine or enjoy some of the attractions. Set in 17 hectares, the lush parklands reflect rainforest, lagoon and beach environments and The Arbour, a stunning a flower-covered walkway, winds through the precinct.

It’s hard to imagine now, but the south bank of the river was once home to the CBD. Severe flooding in 1883 prompted the European settlers to relocate the CBD to where it is today, over on the north banks. By 1930, South Bank had been re-established as a bustling river port and industrial zone that was buzzing with markets, wharves, dance halls and theatres. However, over time development slowed and the area spiralled into disrepair. This all changed in 1984, when South Bank was selected as the site for World Expo 88.

World Expo 88 was immensely successful and breathed new life into South Bank – it attracted 18 million people over its six month run and it showcased the area’s potential as a public space. Once the expo was over, the people of Brisbane lobbied to keep it as public parkland. Today, South Bank is one of Brisbane’s most vibrant, busy and cherished spaces attracting ten million visitors annually.

As well as the tranquillity and beauty of the parklands you can grab a bite to eat on Little Stanley Street, soak up some culture on Grey Street or relax on the river’s edge at River Quay. There are restaurants, cafés, bars, boutiques, museums, galleries, a vibrant performing arts centre, the Wheel of Brisbane, a cinema and, of course, Rydges South Bank is right next to the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre for your accommodation needs.

The precinct is home to more than 150 events each year and can be split into four distinct areas. The sprawling Parklands are known for its expansive green lawns, towering ficus trees and colourful gardens. They are also home to family-friendly experiences and activities including free swimming facilities, walking tracks, playgrounds and picnic and barbecue areas.

Little Stanley Street is a bustling retail and dining strip that overlooks the Parklands. The cafes, bars and restaurants offer an array of international cuisines styles and atmospheres for a casual snack, something more formal or anything in-between. The street also has several chic boutiques that offer the latest in fashion, jewellery and homewares.  

Grey Street is Brisbane’s cultural boulevard, home to the city’s major cultural institutions including the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art, State Library and Queensland Museum and Sciencentre.

River Quay is South Bank’s award-winning dining precinct and green space. On the edge of the Brisbane River it was specially designed to celebrate Queensland’s warm climate and outdoor lifestyle. With uninterrupted views of the river and city skyline, River Quay is a popular destination for kicking back with a book or a picnic. There’s also dining options in the suite of outdoor restaurants. 

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Location! Location! Location! That’s the clichéd catch-cry for prime real estate and it is certainly true for the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. BCEC is located on the corner of Merivale and Glenelg Streets in South Bank, handy to cultural, entertainment, dining and shopping attractions and right next door to Rydges South Bank for all your accommodation needs.

It is only a ten minute walk to the CBD, a five minute walk from the Cultural Centre Busway, adjacent to South Brisbane Train Station and a short walk to the South Bank Parklands, Wheel of Brisbane, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Museum, Queensland Sciencentre, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, the Maritime Museum, State Library and more than 50 restaurants and cafés.

The Convention Centre prides itself on being Australia’s most flexible meetings and events venue with some 44 meeting rooms that can cater for 8 to 8000 people. A recent highlight was being chosen as the venue for the ‘best ever’ G20 Leaders Summit in 2014. The venue professionally and seamlessly arranges private business meetings to major conventions and exhibitions, social and charity functions to sporting and entertainment events. The BCEC has picked up a number of awards (over 150 major industry awards!) including:

  • Worldwide Convention Centre Team of the Year – C&IT Excellence Award 2012
  • Winner of MEA 2014 National awards for Meeting Venue - 500 Delegates or More, and Association or Government Meeting of the Year (for G20)
  • 63 catering awards including being judged Australia’s Beat Function Centre Caterer on three occasions
  • Green credentials are demonstrated through EarthCheck Gold accreditation, AIPC Gold certification and AEG 1Earth partnership

To see the diversity of events put on by the team at the BCEC, a look at the last few months of 2015 gives a good example… there are workshops, the Sunday Mail HIA Home Show, an ocean and river Cruise Expo, Celtic Woman performing as part of their 10th anniversary world tour, Oz Comic-Con 2015, Emazon IGNITE LIVE 2015, Discover Europe Travel Expo, a Fredrik Eklund Live in Australia seminar, a Craft & Quilt Fair, Queensland Trade and Investment Luncheon,   Queensland Wedding Brides and Honeymoon Expo, the Coffee Club Telethon Ball, Soulfest 2015, Brisbane Fitness and Heath Expo, The Good Food and Wine Expo, The Tour on Stage (An Evening with Phil Liggett, Jens Voigt and Special Guests), Rise & Shine Tour and the HIT 105 Special Children’s Christmas Party that serves up a day that 3000 kiddies will never forget.

All public areas of the centre can be accessed by wheelchair and there are designated disability parking spaces in the car park (which can accommodate 1500 vehicles). If you need wheelchair accessible seating or have special needs, phone (07) 3308 3492. There are two ATMs in the complex and personal items can be stored in the cloakrooms at the information desks. There two restaurant options in the complex, Olio Café & Bar and Merivale Café & Bar. Here is a link to the official BCEC website for more info.

Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane

The Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane (GOMA) opened on December 2, 2006. It is the Queensland Art Gallery's second building, and is the largest gallery of modern and contemporary art in Australia. It’s only 150 metres from the Queensland Art Gallery and to do both justice in a combined visit, you need to pretty much allocate a whole day.  

Both the QAG and GOMA are on the banks of the Brisbane River. QAG’s riverfront entry is near Melbourne Street and Victoria Bridge and both galleries have an entrance from Stanley Place. The galleries are an easy walk from the Brisbane CBD and from Rydges South Bank and the South Bank Parklands. Incidentally the two galleries are affectionately known as QAGOMA (pronounced KWAG-GOMA).

Both galleries add much to the South Bank cultural precinct and are open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm (from noon on Anzac Day and closed Christmas Day and Good Friday). GOMA has an excellent award-winning restaurant that opens for lunch from midday to 3:00pm Wednesday to Sunday and for dinner on Friday from 5:30pm til late. You can enjoy a fabulous permanent artwork on the bistro lawn called The World Turns.

The galleries are home to more than 16,000 artworks from Australia and around the world in every important medium. There is an internationally significant collection of Asian and Pacific art. The work of Australian artists has been collected since the QAG’s foundation in 1895. The Contemporary Australian Art Collection is rich in paintings, major installation, cross-media and moving image works, which are central to contemporary art practice. The collection of Indigenous Australian art is also extensive with a focus on the rich diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. There is also an impressive and varied collection of international art (Europe, Africa, North America and South America).

There are always exciting temporary exhibitions at GOMA and it has a welcoming, friendly atmosphere that invites visitors to embrace the building, the art and the staff. An example of the accessibility is ‘Toddler Tuesday’. Each Tuesday children aged 18 months to 4 years are invited to free seminars where there are games, storytelling and activities that are fun for the littlies and their parents/carers. Bookings are essential and can be made via the website link below.  These sessions are free as are the gallery guided tours that are conducted by knowledgeable and passionate volunteers. 

And while it is accessible in the sense of not being ‘stuffy’ or ‘pretentious’ the galleries are also extremely accessible for people with disabilities. There are ramps, lifts and toilets for visitors with wheelchairs. QAG wheelchair access is via the lift on the upper level of the Art Gallery carpark, via ramps at the front entrance from Melbourne Street, or via the street level entrance on Stanley Place, which is located between both buildings. GOMA wheelchair access is via the street level entrance on Stanley Place or via the lift from the Stanley Place carpark.

Here is a link to the official website for both GOMA and the QAG.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Chances are you will get more than you expect at Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Every visitor expects to see koalas and there will be plenty of opportunities for that with over 130 resident koalas just waiting to be observed or cuddled. It is the world’s largest koala sanctuary and is rated by AOL as one of the ten top zoos in the world. As well as the koalas there are kangaroos, wallabies, emus, platypus, birds of prey, lorikeets, snakes, crocodiles, Tasmanian Devils and even sheep and sheepdogs.

There are animal encounters and keeper presentations. You can feed the kangaroos (pick up a bag of food from the general store across from the koala cuddling area – just $2 a bag), hand-feed the Lorikeets, cuddle (well, more ‘hold’ than ‘cuddle’) a baby crocodile or a snake, have a bird of prey sit on your (gloved) arm following the flight show, get up close with the resident male platypus, Barak and Aroona, at their daily feeding session and check out the sheep dog show (three times daily with the last two including sheep shearing). You can also hold baby chickens and guinea pigs in the barnyard enclosure.

But, of course, everyone wants to cuddle a koala. Koala cuddling has been banned in New South Wales since 1997 but cuddling is permitted in Queensland as long as certain guidelines are followed. These koalas enjoy being cuddled because they have been introduced to human interaction at an early age. The koalas are up for cuddles any time from 9:00am to 4:30pm but they are on a roster. By law koalas can only be cuddled for less than 30 minutes per day and they have to have every third day off so they get plenty of ‘koala’ down time to eat and sleep.

A photo of you with a koala is a great souvenir and there are professional photographers on hand (from $18 a photo). Once you have purchased a photo you are then allowed to get some happy snaps with your own camera or phone. The proceeds go towards research, building new enclosures and eucalyptus plantations.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is open every day from 9:00am to 5:00pm, apart from Christmas Day (9:00am to 4:00pm) and Anzac Day (1:30pm to 5:00pm). The sanctuary is just 15 minutes from the city at Fig Tree Pocket (708 Jesmond Road). The sanctuary is wheelchair accessible and they have wheelchairs that can be borrowed at no charge.

You are more than welcome to take a picnic. There are plenty of areas to enjoy a picnic lunch with one of the most popular spots being beside the river near the wild Lorikeet feeding area. Due to licensing laws you can’t take your own alcohol but the two cafés sell beer and wine. The Sleepy Koala Café is located inside the sanctuary and serves hot and cold meals and drinks (9:00am to 3:00pm) and the Riverside Café is just outside the main entrance along the Brisbane River (9:00am to 4:00pm). Free WiFi is available at both cafés.

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